First Look – 12 Kings Pub

Ah The Biltmore Hotel… It has been many things over the years. It currently serves as a social housing facility and is home to the Biltmore Cabaret and its newest tenant, 12 Kings Pub. 12 Kings is the love child of a bunch of Craft Beer fans who wanted to watch sports in a pub that had their favourite local breweries on tap. I remember drinking at The Locker Room, the bar that lived here prior to 12 Kings, while I was building the elevators across the street back in 2007. That place was a dump. After the Whitecaps disappointing home opener I headed over to 12 Kings to drown my sorrows.

12 Kings Pub
12 Kings Pub

The beer list is exactly what you would expect from a place run by former CAMRA Vancouver executives. They have 12 constantly changing taps pouring all things local and delicious. The also have 311 Helles Lager and a shot of Jameson on special from time to time if you like to walk in wobbly lines back to the Skytrain, at least that’s how I remember it.

The Hammer Burger
The Hammer Burger

To counteract the copious amounts of alcohol it takes to forget a loss to TFC I ordered The Hammer Burger. Nice house made patty, bacon, smoked Gouda, crispy onions, drunken mushrooms (whatever that means?) and the usual fixings. I don’t know what I was expecting from the food at 12 Kings but this was a tasty burger. It really surprised me to be honest. Yes, those are tater tots on the side, I highly recommend them. The only complaint I had was that the crispy onions were a little chewy and didn’t seem fresh.

The renovations have erased all signs of The Locker Room. The place is almost unrecognisable, in a good way.

12 Kings runs a shuttle bus to and from BC Place on Whitecaps game days, they offer a Southsiders discount, and they show all of the Whitecaps away games as well as Canucks, Lions, and whatever other sport you’re into.

Well done boys, you’ve found exactly what Vancouver was missing.

Twitter – @12KingsPub

Facebook – 12 Kings Pub

Web – 12kingspub.com

Scott.

 

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The Old Spaghetti Factory, A Culinary Dinosaur.

It’s been years since I’ve eaten at The Old Spaghetti Factory (OSF for short, I’m lazy and that’s a long name…). I remember fresh sour dough bread, reasonably good American/Italian pasta dishes, and spumoni (Italian ice cream). Hayley and I had dinner at the OSF in Richmond during a recent “Awesome Dads” outing with my pal Allan and his daughter. The place was packed and there was a 30-40 minute wait for a table. Thankfully there’s a bowling alley next door with an arcade so the wait passed quickly.

"Bacon" Caesar
“Bacon” Caesar

Once seated we received our ubiquitous loaf of sour dough bread that comes with regular and garlic whipped butter. The only problem I found with the sour dough bread was that it was not sour dough… When did this happen?! It’s a loaf of white bread, not particularly fresh either. That’s fairly disappointing. I ordered a Bacon Caesar from their drink menu. Where do I start. The bacon garnish was of the “McCain Readycrisp” variety and had been sitting out a LONG time. It was pale, floppy, and disgusting. My straw kept getting clogged by something which, after some digging, turned out to be artificial bacon bits. Seriously, just a bunch of soy based crunchy garbage added to a drink for flavour? No thanks.

Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad

Next up was an appetizer sized Caesar Salad. Other than a few bits of brown Romaine the salad was ok. Store bought croutons, dressing not dissimilar to The Keg’s Caesar dressing you can buy at a grocery store. To be honest this is what most people would bring to a pot-luck/picnic.

Spaghetti with spicy meat sauce
Spaghetti with spicy meat sauce

My entrée was Spaghetti with Spicy Meat Sauce. You would think that having a restaurant with the word Spaghetti in the name would mean they would know how to cook spaghetti. You would be wrong. Mark, aka @TheLowerCrust on Twitter, provided that insight for me and added this gem when I asked my followers what they thought of OSF and their pasta;

The noodles seem like they were made days ago and reheated. The sauce is ok, slightly oily and not much spice for “spicy meat sauce”. The random parsley is almost pointless and looks as if it was put there by mistake.

For dessert I had spumoni that tasted like ice cream.

There you have it. No entrées over $13 might be the only thing that would get me to recommend this place. I apologise in advance to all of the tourists who end up at the OSF in Gastown because they don’t know any better. It’s not your fault.

Twitter – @OSFCanada

Facebook – Old Spaghetti Factory Canada

World Wide Web – oldspaghettifactory.ca

Scott.

Quick Bite – Gyoza Bar + Ramen

Aburi Restaurants Canada operates 2 of Vancouver’s favourite Japanese restaurants, Yaletown’s Minami and Miku in Coal Harbour/Gastown (it’s on the boarder…). Their newest spot is Gyoza Bar + Ramen located at 622 West Pender street between Seymour and Granville. Minami and Miku are consistently outstanding and the buzz accompanying the news of a new Aburi restaurant was palpable during the summer. I paid Gyoza Bar a lunchtime visit the first week they were open back in September.

Gyoza Bar + Ramen
Gyoza Bar + Ramen

Due to the hype and the fact that I was working I decided to go right when they opened the doors at 11:30. There was roughly 10 people already waiting outside and 10-20 people behind me when the doors opened. I was seated at the window which suited me just fine as the natural light is great for food pictures. I ordered the Umami Lunch Duo, 7 piece pork teppan gyoza and a medium ramen for $17. I opted for the pork tonkotsu ramen with aburi pork char siu and tamago with the Fraser Valley pork teppan gyoza.

Pork Tepan Gyoza
Pork Teppan Gyoza

The gyoza are cooked in a traditional cast iron pan which adds a crispy outer goodness that run of the mill gyoza can’t come close to. They are filled with barley fed pork and come with a spicy garlic soy sauce and an umami soy sauce for dipping. The spicy garlic sauce is the way to go, it’s fantastic. These gyoza are very, very good.

Pork Tonkotsu Ramen
Pork Tonkotsu Ramen

The ramen, while a little on the small side, is equally as tasty. Rich, salty broth, tender pork, orgasmic egg, great noodles. Basically heaven in a bowl. $17 is a little more than I like to spend on lunch but I left full and happy.

The rest of the lunch menu looks great with a 4 ramen options, 3 gyoza options, 2 sandwiches, and 2 desserts. The dinner menu expands things a bit and the drink menu offers up some nice Sake, Japanese whisky, Shochu, a few nice wines, and even some craft beer!

Gyoza Bar + Ramen. The hype is justified.

Scott.

Twitter – @GyozaBarRamen

Instagram – @aburirestaurants

Facebook – gyozabarramen

World Wide Web – gyozabar.ca

Dunn’s Famous

There’s a place in Montreal called Dunn’s Famous that’s been serving authentic Montreal Smoked meat since 1927 and they have recently opened up right here in Vancouver! Poutine, Smoked Meat, Cheese Cake, the holy triumvirate of must have Montreal staples are now made in the true Montreal style at 827 Seymour Street (at Robson) and I was recently invited by Cate Simpson of Simpson Public Relations, who handles Dunn’s PR, to come and sample some menu items.

First up was some beer battered deep fried pickles, deep fried pickles are great. I know what you’re thinking if you’ve never tried them, you’re thinking that they sound gross. Well, you are wrong and the fact that every day there are more and more Vancouver restaurants serving them is proof, quit being a sissy!

Next we tried 5 out of Dunn’s 6 Poutines. The Quebecoise (Cheese curds & Dunn’s special gravy), the Italienne (Cheese curds & meat sauce), the Peppercorn (Cheese curds & peppercorn sauce), The Dunn’s (Cheese curds, Dunn’s special gravy & chopped Montreal smoked meat) and the Vegetarian (Cheese curds, vegetarian gravy). My favorite was the Peppercorn followed closely by the Dunn’s, smoked meat on poutine, so good. The Quebecoise is the most traditional poutine and is a little different than I expected. Dunn’s special gravy has a little BBQ seasoning added to it giving it a distinct taste that’s quite nice but it was actually my least favorite.

The smoked meat comes in 3 different cuts, lean, medium fat and fat. I had the medium fat in a Super Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich which has 6 ounces (!) of meat and comes with a choice of sides. I had Mazoh Ball soup which was great. The medium fat cut was nice and juicy with just the right amount of fat for a sandwich. The meat is steamed fresh daily and sliced to order and is very tasty and authentic. I also tried the fat cut which was delicious but probably life shortening.

For dessert we tried the famous Dunn’s cheesecake which I’m told takes 5 days to prepare and uses a special cottage cheese brought here from Quebec. There’s no picture of this masterpiece because I started eating it before I remembered to take a quick shot of it…oh well you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself. It’s creamy and crumbly at the same time, magic.

Go check it out!!

Scott.